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Driving in to work on Tuesday morning was quite depressing as I knew that 20,000 California state workers had received layoff notices. With the budget almost seven months late, it’s a scary time to be working for the government. Every morning, I wake up with anxiety as my mind can’t help but focus on California’s dire situation. Trying to remain upbeat and positive has become almost impossible as I watch many of my friends and coworkers forced out of their jobs, jobs that they love, jobs that put food on the table for their children or loved ones.

As a fellow state worker, it’s hard to stay objective here. Part of me wants to rant and rave, while the other part knows that keeping a cool head is the best way to survive this current low. I will just say this: I never knew I wanted to work in the public sector but I have literally stumbled upon a life’s passion while working in this arena. Knowing that my work helps run California gives me great satisfaction, and this sentiment is shared with all my fellow state colleagues.

I hope this mess gets figured out so California state employees can resume their work and get back to doing what they enjoy. The lazy state worker stigma is a completely outdated stereotype, at least in my opinion. The departments that I have worked in are full of busier-than-ever workers, people who don’t have enough time in their day to complete all of their duties, yet they keep going because it’s their duty. We don’t take our jobs for granted, and I hope the California legislators get their act together about this budget situation. Now is not the time to protect your investments and think only of your constituency.

There isn’t much I can say that can ease the worry and panic many feel. It may not ease your job worries, but this fruit curd tartlet is bound to brighten up your day. The vivid yellow with pillows of white meringue will hopefully raise your spirits, even for just a minute. It may not find you a brand new job or help you pay your bills, but it can offer its own small comforts.

As I made these fruit curd tartlets, I tried to focus on clearly executing the preparations and procedures efficiently. I laid out all my ingredients before I started making the dough and curd, which cuts down on your in-between time. I often fumble and make mistakes when I’m rushed so getting my eggs, milk, and butter ready beforehand helped me out tremendously.

A beginner at curd making, I have learned that watching the egg and sugar mixture closely is the key to a successful curd. If you leave your eye for just one minute, you risk burning the bottom of the pan, which is never a good thing. I’m also training my eye to notice the difference in texture when adding in the butter. After looking like a mess, there is a moment when it reaches its perfect consistency. The only advice I can give you about making tarts is to keep practicing. The more you get used to the process, the better off you will be. I’m still a novice, but I am definitely trying.
Too all my fellow government workers, hang in there. I know times really stink right now and falling in to negativity seems like an automatic response. But pessimistic attitudes don’t get you anywhere. In the words of Sam Cooke, “it’s been a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come”.

Fruit Curd Tartlets
Origin: Martha Stewart Baking Handbook
Yield: 18 3-inch tartlets
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:
● all-purpose flour, for dusting
● Tart Dough, (recipe below)
● Lemon curd, grapefruit curd, or passion fruit curd, (lemond curd recipe below)
● 1/2 cup egg whites, about 4 large eggs
● 3/4 cup sugar
● pinch of salt

Directions:
On a lightly, floured surface, roll out dough to an 1/8-inch thickness. With a sharp paring knife, cut out rounds of dough using a tartlet pan as a guide, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge. Fit the dough into tartlet pans, and lightly prick the bottom of the dough in each pan all over with a fork. Place the tartlet shells on a rimmed baking sheet, and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350℉.

Bake tartlet shells until light golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. Remove the shells from the pans and set aside.

When ready to serve, place desired curd in a pastry bad fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip, and pipe into the cooled tartlet shells to fill. Use about 1 tablespoon for 3-inch tartlets. You may have some curd left over, reserve it for another use.

In a heatproof bowl of an electric mixer, combine the egg whites, sugar, and salt. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water; whisk until the mixture registers 140℉ on an instant read thermometer and sugar is completely dissolved. Transfer to the mixer, and beat on medium-high speed with the whisk attachment until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 7 minutes. Transfer the meringue to a pastry bag fitted with a clean 1/2-inch plain tip. Pipe the meringue around the edge of the tartlets, forming mounded peaks.

Briefly run the tarts under the broiler and be sure to keep your eye on the tartlets. You don’t want them to burn. The tartlets can be baked a day in advance and kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Prepare the meringue and finish the tartlets before serving.

Lemon Curd
Origin: Martha Stewart Baking Handbook
Yield: 2 cups
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 to 40 minutes

Ingredients:
● 8 large eggs yolks
● 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, (about 3 lemons)
● 1 cup sugar
● 1/8 tsp. salt
● 1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
● finely grated zest of 2 lemons

Directions:
Combine yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and the sugar in a saucepan; whisk to combine. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon (be sure to scrape the sides of the pan), until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, 8 to 10 minutes, and registers 160℉ on an instant read thermometer.

Remove saucepan from heat. Add salt and butter, one piece at a time, stirring until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve unto a medium bowl. Stir in the remaining zest. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled and set.

Tart Dough
Origin: Martha Stewart Baking Handbook
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: at least two hours, or overnight

Ingredients:
● 6 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
● 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
● 2 large egg yolks
● 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
● 1/4 tsp salt
● 2 tbsp heavy cream

Directions:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter and confectioners’ sugar. Mix on low speed until combined, about 2 minutes.

Add egg yolks and mix until incorporated, about 1 minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add 3/4 cup flour, and mix on low speed until the flour is just incorporated, about 30 seconds. Add remaining 2/4 cup flour along with the salt and cream, and mix just until flour is no longer visible, about 1 minute.

Turn out dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a flattened disk. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight. The dough can be frozen for up to one month; thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.

Printable Recipe here.

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February 19, 2009 - 1:32 am

Helen - That’s terrible about all those state workers! It seems like everyone’s job is under threat, even here in England. It’s a worrying time but it makes you appreciate what you have got like friends and family and nice pie!

February 19, 2009 - 7:15 am

Kristin at The Kitchen Sink - Beautiful, Amanda. And I admire your positive outlook. I bet these sunshine-y tartlets helped.

February 19, 2009 - 12:33 pm

snooky doodle - wow what a nice tart, these look delicious.

February 19, 2009 - 3:06 pm

whitneyinchicago - I have the same panics as well. I am a 3rd year law student that is graduating in May and I have no idea what I will be doing after I take the bar. Scary times indeed.

Your lemon curd looks wonderful. I need to stock up on some citrus and have a hayday.

February 19, 2009 - 3:24 pm

kickpleat - Yikes, these are scary times indeed. But it’s nice to see such beauty…these tarts are incredibly lovely and the photos are divine.

February 20, 2009 - 5:02 am

Caitlin - Definitely scary – friends in Michigan who work for the state are having the same worries as you. But I think those sunny tartlets are a great way to take a breather and try not to get too stressed out. Good luck!

February 20, 2009 - 7:31 am

lillieinthecity - I work for a CA nonprofit where we have been dealing with many similar issues. But like you, I am trying to avoid dwelling on it and trying to find the bright side. Your pie looks like the picture of happiness! I’ll have to try this one soon (:

February 20, 2009 - 8:51 am

nicole - Amanda! These photos are gorgeous … really astounding! I am dying for one of these right now, in fact (thanks a lot :) ). Maybe this weekend …

And it’s true these times are a bit scary for our beloved state, but now we have a budget (!) at last so hopefully that will help. Thinking good thoughts your way.

March 30, 2010 - 5:43 am

Spring break + recipes « Slow Like Honey - [...] recipes: Blackberry Jam Cake Buttermilk Cookies Carrot Tea Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting Lemon Curd Tartlets Lemon Poppy Seed Cake Orange Berry Muffins Sour Cream Raspberry Swirl [...]

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